JCA rolls out contactless clearance

FOLLOWING the complete roll-out of the contactless clearance process at all sea ports and marine public-bonded warehouses, the Jamaica Customs Agency said it is making adjustments to the new service to make it even more seamless.

Implemented on May 1, 2023 the contactless clearance process provides importers of non-commercial cargo of less than a container load with "a more efficient, more hassle-free, and less time-consuming avenue to clear their cargo". The JCA ran the contactless clearance pilot phase from October 2022 to January 2023.

"The JCA is currently working on expanding the payment options to make it easier for importers to remotely pay their Customs duties and charges. We also continue to sensitise our customers about this process, which is geared at making it easier for them to clear cargo whilst improving our border controls," the agency told Jamaica Observer.

The implementation of the new service is aligned to the JCA's mandates of trade facilitation, border protection, and revenue collection. Contactless clearance has eliminated the requirement for importers to spend many hours moving from their freight forwarder to warehouses to Customs in order to have their goods cleared.

In this regard, the agency pointed out that the contactless clearance not only impacts the JCA and its end customers but also the freight-forwarding agents.

"The JCA continues to work to improve the confidence that our customers have in the integrity of the clearance process by introducing body-worn cameras to officers who will be inspecting cargo under the contactless clearance process," Kingsley Henry, project manager for the contactless clearance process, outlined.

At the same time the agency encourages customers to share their packing list — with adequate details of their shipment — with Customs agents for increased efficiency in completing an accurate customs declaration.

"…and [we] urge importers to utilise the system even as we work towards making it mandatory," the JCA informed Sunday Finance.

The contactless clearance process begins with the freight forwarding agents or Customs brokers submitting the electronic Customs declaration. The declaration can be submitted as soon as the shipping agents submit the cargo manifests and once the importers provide the freight forwarders with the required details.

After the declaration is submitted and the Customs duty assessment is received and paid, the Customs inspection process will be triggered.

"We will no longer be waiting days or weeks for the importer to visit the ports for these inspections to be done. The inspection of the cargo will be done within the charter standard time of thirty minutes. The effectiveness of our partner agents and the provision of accurate and timely information by importers will be critical to us maximising the gains from contactless clearance," the JCA explained.

At present the JCA does not offer contactless clearance to commercial importers; instead, commercial shipments will remain a part of the scope of the physical inspection process reform. The agency advised that further dialogue would be required "with our major stakeholders in undertaking any adjustments or change in this regard".

BY JOSIMAR SCOTT Senior reporter josimars@jamaicaobserver.com

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